Cisco Pike (January 31/06)
With a supporting cast that includes Gene Hackman, Harry Dean Stanton, and Karen Black, Cisco Pike is an obscure piece of '70s trivia that reveals itself to be a fairly decent little movie.
Kris Kristofferson - in his first starring role - stars as the title character, a former rock star who's turned to drug dealing after falling on hard times. Pike's efforts to go straight are foiled by Leo Holland (Hackman) - the narc who busted him twice - who forces the musician to deal a large cache of pot within the space of three days. With absolutely no say in the matter, Pike soon finds himself reaching out to his old clients and even encounters his doped-up former partner (Stanton).
Writer/director Bill L. Norton infuses Cisco Pike with a distinctly '70s aesthetic that permeates every aspect of the film, with the dialogue the most obvious example of this (at one point, Pike actually tells another character, "dig ya later, man!") Norton's choice to eschew a linear storyline in favor of a rambling sort of vibe generally works, as we watch Pike attempt to ingratiate himself with his old cronies. But at a certain point, the whole thing just becomes overwhelmingly meandering and random - particularly towards the conclusion, following the introduction of Stanton's character (the movie becomes less about Pike's drug conundrum and more about his efforts to get his friend clean).
Yet the movie is essentially entertaining throughout, thanks primarily to the uniformly top-notch performances. Kristofferson, looking exceptionally young but sporting that same deep, grizzled voice, delivers a natural and thoroughly convincing portrayal of a guy who's just trying to do the right thing (it's hard to believe that he had virtually no prior experience). Hackman, not surprisingly, steals all of this scenes in what basically amounts to a cameo, while Stanton and Black provide solid supporting performances.
Though there's no mistaking Cisco Pike for anything other than a product of its time, the film often manages to overcome its '70s excess and generally comes off as an effective character study.